49-year-old Maria Knights, of Suffolk, selflessly put her own life on hold to provide vital 24-hour support for her son, Kyle, after he sustained a serious brain injury in a road accident nearly eight years ago.
In August 2007, Maria received devastating news that her son, Kyle, had been knocked off his scooter by a drunk driver. Kyle, who had only passed his test two days previously on his 16th birthday, had just driven past his mum on his way home and they had exchanged a wave. Sadly, he never arrived at the house.
"Kyle was initially rushed to Ipswich Hospital, before being transferred to a specialist unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge," remembered Maria.
I was terrified when my husband Kelvin and I were warned to expect the worst.
"I just stayed by his bedside willing Kyle to get better. Even though my son was still in a coma and had sustained a severe brain injury, I refused to give up hope that he would pull through.
"I remember taking photographs, items from Kyle's bedroom and even our family's pet dog to the hospital in case Kyle could hear or feel anything. We simply refused to give up. I kept a diary filled with letters addressed to Kyle for him to read when he recovered."
After spending more than five months in a coma, Kyle eventually began to show signs of improvement in January 2008. When he was finally discharged from hospital, Maria slept in his room with him most nights and she soon became his primary carer, helping him with everything from washing to eating.
Despite the doctor's warning that 'nothing will come back', dedicated Maria provided her son with 24-hour care, with the hope that Kyle's muscle reflexes would develop into deliberate movements. With the support of close family and friends, Kyle finally began to improve, to the extent that he even kicked a football back to his brother Darrell, who is a footballer with Yeovil Town.
Today, Maria and Kyle are valued members of Headway Suffolk.
"Caring for Kyle became a natural part of mine and Kelvin's everyday routine, but it has been a hard slog for the whole time since the accident.
"Kyle had to go right back to the basics and he even had to re-learn how to swallow and chew food - it was like he was a baby again. I gave up everything, including my job as the head under-writer at a motor company, to spend 24-hours a day with him.
"At first, Kelvin and I were told his condition was too severe for rehabilitation, but I used every piece of support offered by Headway Suffolk and pursued every scrap of advice to learn more about brain injuries. Thankfully, Kyle began to improve.
"The most upsetting thing for us is that Kyle's brain injury has caused him to forget nearly all his childhood memories. He now retains most of the things he is told, but it's disheartening when he forgets our times together as a family before the accident. We are keen to plan lots of holidays and start building up his bank of memories again.
"I simply would not have been able to do it without the support of my family and Headway Suffolk. We took everything a day at a time and I just kept pushing him - I still push him now.
"Seven years on from the fear of not knowing whether he would survive, Kyle has now completed college courses in plastering and he is even driving again.
I am so proud of everything he has achieved, and is still achieving, after we fought so hard together for him to regain control of his life after brain injury."
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